Philippines – Malapascua

Malapascua Island, Philippines – one of the only places in the world where SCUBA divers can come face to face with pelagic thresher sharks (also known as “fox sharks”). Thresher sharks are famous for their unusually long tails, which can sometimes measure as long as their torpedo shaped muscular bodies! The thresher shark uses its tail as a weapon, whipping, stunning and immobilizing its prey. Definitely a sight to behold but few divers encounter the thresher as they typically hang out between 30 to 150 meters in the open ocean. However, lucky for us, Monad Shoal at Malapascua Island is one of the most notable (and reliable) hot spots in the world to see pelagic threshers on a regular basis. Sign us up!

To reach Malapascua Island, we had to fly into Cebu, take a taxi to the north bus terminal, hop on a Ceres bus to Maya Port, and flag down a public boat to Malapascua Island…whew! We were definitely happy to reach the island late that afternoon. Our home for the week was the lovely Aabana Beach & Watersport Resort, right next door to Evolution Diving Resort. Our plan was to dive with the threshers every morning at the crack of dawn, and depending on how the rest of the diving was, log up to 15 dives during the week. Little did we know that diving with the threshers meant getting up at 4 am, so we quickly modified our original plan! 4 am wake up every morning on vacation…no thanks, ha ha.

The threshers did not disappoint. We were very lucky to see them on all 3 dives we did with them, unlike the previous week where they struck out 4 mornings in a row. The best dive was the last, with at least 10 thresher shark sightings, including one that leisurely circled us several times. Magical! Big kudos to dive master Josh who took us to his favorite cleaning station. Diving Nitrox is a must, or we would have had to cut our bottom time short. Well worth it…being that intimate with the threshers was an unforgettable natural high.

As for the rest of the diving at Malapascua, we weren’t expecting too much, but damn, were we shocked when we realized it is a macro divers’ delight! From seahorses, nudibranchs, pipefish, shrimps, frogfishes, pygmy squid (about the size of a grain of rice)…the underwater world never fails to amaze us. Before we knew it, we had logged 16 dives, including a dusk dive to see the mandarin fish courtship dance, a night dive where we spotted the elusive blue-ringed octopus, a day trip to the unmissable Gato Island, and a day trip to see the Dona Marilyn ship wreck and Maria’s Point (best coral garden of the trip). Diving in the Philippines is very impressive, but keep your expectations in check. While we love the big exciting stuff, we absolutely do appreciate the small stuff too. Aaaah, so many more places to add to our Philippines SCUBA bucket list (Moalboal Sardine Run, Dumaguete’s macro diving at Dauin, Coron Bay’s wreck diving, Cathedral Rock Diving at Anilao and Batangas, and Siquijor Island). Needless to say, we’ll definitely be back. This is the start of a new love affair with the Philippines, which had catapulted itself to the top of our favorite Southeast Asian countries!

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